New Study Shows Link Between Aggressive Behavior and Implementation of Steps to Resolve Conflict

Summary of:

Douglas, B., & Orpinas, P. (2019). Goals and strategies to solve peer conflict: Comparison by aggression trajectories. Pensamiento Psicológico, Volume 17(2), 23-35. doi:10.11144/Javerianacali.PPSI17-2.gssp

Background & Theory

This article explores how adolescent youth in three different aggressive behavior trajectories might use different methods, goals, and strategies to handle conflict, and what this means for preventative measures.

Research Questions

Douglas and Orpinas look at the following questions in their study:

  1. Do youth in varying trajectories of aggressive behavior use different means to resolve conflict?
  2. How can this information be used beneficially moving forward?

Methods

The authors conducted a research study of a randomly selected group of youth in grade 6, with several hundred students participating annually until they reached grade 12. The selected students and their teachers would submit a survey each year; the teachers rated students based on a student behavior model, and students would self-report their behaviors. This data was then compiled and evaluated for trends.

Results

The results of the study show that students rated as Low Aggression typically address conflict with relationships in mind and less aggressive means to resolve conflict. Students rated as Medium Desisting or High Desisting were shown to have more aggressive goals and strategies to resolve conflict.

What This Means

  • Adolescent youth who have a tendency to be aggressive in behavior are in fact more likely to be aggressive in handling conflict (i.e., resorting to physical, verbal aggression, etc.) and less focused on preserving relationships than those with a natural tendency for low aggression.
  • It would be worthwhile for schools to look into implementing programs that focus on the social-cognitive factors that influence children’s behavior within a conflict, in order to encourage more relationship-focused (and hopefully long-term) means to resolving conflict.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: When dealing with younger disputants in conflict resolution, this information can be helpful to understand how they may be addressing conflict. Redirecting them with engaging techniques to encourage empathy and lower aggression would be helpful in resolving the conflict more peacefully. While not directly inferred from this article, it is possible that these aggressive behaviors continue far past adolescence; if you have aggressive clients involved in a dispute, taking the same steps to encourage empathy and understanding may be useful.

For everyone: It may be tempting to respond with aggression when involved in a conflict, but think about other productive ways that can be used to resolve the conflict that also preserve your relationship with the other person.

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